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New Directions for Comparative Research and Theory
by Richard Locke
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Worldng Paper Series #44
Paper prepared for the 98th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C.
September 2-5, 1993. Draft: August 25, 1993. Please do not cite or circulate without permission from the authors.
This paper begins with a discussion of two major, alternative approaches to the study of labor in
the advanced capitalist countries: the institutionalist perspective (which builds on the work of
Suzanne Berger, Peter Hall, Peter Katzenstein, and Wolfgang Streeck, among others), and the
"political constructionist perspective (associated with Michael Piore, Charles Sabel, Roberto
Unger, and Jonathan Zeitlin, among others). Although these are typically characterized as
competing approaches in the literature, this paper explores the complementary contributions the
two perspectives might make to a more synthetic and comprehensive understanding of
contemporary labor politics. By combining insights derived from both approaches, we arrive at
a rather unconventional approach to contemporary labor research. Rather than comparing
structurally analogous or functionally equivalent cases, as in traditional labor scholarship, we
layout a research strategy based on what we call "contextualized comparisons" and
demonstrate the unique contribution it can make to comparative labor research.
The Shifting Boundaries of Labor .Politics: .
New Directions for Comparative Researcb and Theoryl
Dramatic losses in membership and faltering political power indicate that labor unions
in just about every advanced industrial nation need to change· if they are to remain viable
institutions. Everywhere unions are wrestling with strained internal relations and an apparent
inability to organize workers in the new sectors of the economy; increased isolation and
ineffective strategies in the political arena; and confused or contradictory behavior (futile
intransigence alternating with passive resignation) in the face of radical changes in the
Changing conditions of world competition and innovation have spurred
increasing numbers of individual firms as well as entire industries to restructure. Those that
fail to adjust often These developments, in tBrn. have put pressure on firms to
redesign work practices and hence redefine their relationship to the unions. In some
industries and firms. reorganization and new forms of labor-management interaction
have emerged while in some other cases change has been opposed and innovation stalled.
Everywhere unions are debating alternative strategic responses to industrial adjustment. This
debate has not only pit "intransigent" worker groups against more "cooperative" ones but also
threatens to undermine all attempts at sectoral. let alone national union strategy and collective
bargaining. In addition, behind all these various voices lies much uncertainty as to what will
happen to workers expelled from restructurecJ firms and what role (if any) unions will play
both at the micro-level, within these reorganized firms and industries, and at the macro-Ievel,
in an economy characterized by growing unemployment and stagnant real wages.
Unked to labor's need to redefine its role in the economy is a second major challenge
concerning its strategies in the political arena. The collapse of the "postwar consensus" that
existed between organized labor and busiD.ess in much of Western Europe is no longer news.
Over the last decade, parties closely allied with the labor movement have either disintegrated
or suffered repeated electoral setbacks. As a result, organized labor has found itself
increasingly isolated (i.e., treated as a "special interest") in the political sphere. After years
of which alternated between intraorganizational power struggles/purges and desperate
attempts to repackage labor parties so that they might appear more "centrist If or
"mainstream," it has become increasingly clear that the labor movement must reformulate its
political project. This, in turn, will require the development of alternative political .
a rehauling of party structures and and a redefinition of the political division of
labor between unions and political parties.
These political and economic shifts leave unions facing an array of new strategic
issues but without the support or guidance provided previously by. traditional
politica1Jideological categories and alliances. As a result, unions have engaged in a series of
debates and experiments over how best to organize themselves in the new political economy.
At fIrSt glance, it might appear as if these internal det>ates center around straightforward (but
by no means simple) organi7.ational questions: How to organize new workers with
non-traditional demands and identities? How to reallocate rights and responsibilities between
union leaders and rank-and-file workers or between national unions and their locals? How to
adjudicate between different national industry unions with increasingly overlapping
jurisdictional boundaries? But closer examination reveals that what is really up for discussion
is the basic identity of the unions themselves. At a time when unions are often called upon to
aid firms in their competitive struggles, when functional distinctions between "blue" and
"white" collar workers or manual and supervisory jobs are blmring, and when rank-and-file
workers worry as much about extra-firm issues (e.g., health care costs, day care
arrangements) as traditional workplace claims, it is easy to see bow the basic functions and
bence identity of unions are being rapidly redefined.
These three developments form the empirical backdrop for unions as they struggle to
remain viable institutions, but also for students of labor as they attempt to comprehend the
strategic dilemmas and opportunities labor now faces. We will revisit the question of union
strategies briefly in the conclusion, but om main concern in this paper is the theoretical
problems these recent trends create for om traditional understanding of labor politics. In
particular, we focus on two alternative approaches to the study of labor that we believe
contain key insights into the contemporary period. The first, an institutional approacb, views
labor's current problems as emanating from recent efforts by employers to enhance their
competitiveness by renegotiating previously stable institutional arrangements. The second
approach, what we call "political constructionism, .. views labor's difficulties in terms of
broader changes in the socioeconomic context in which unions are embedded: These shifts
have rekindled questions about the organizational boundaries and identities of the unions
The two approaches around which we have organized this essay certainly do not
exhaust the full range of alternative perspectives available in the literature today. Moreover
both the institutionalist and the political constructionist approaches themselves owe
considerable intellectual debts to a number of other past and present.2 Our purpose
in singling out these two approaches for closer examination is not to belittle the conbibution
of the nor to minimize the debts these two approaches owe to others. Our
agenda, rather, is to explore the complementary conbibutions these two perspectives, which
are seen in much of the literature as competing, might make to a more synthetic and
comprehensive understanding of contemporary labor politics.
By combining insights derived from both perspectives, we arrive at a rathet:
unconventional approach to contemporary labor research. Rather than comparing structurally
analagous or functionally equivalent as in ttaditionallabor scholarship, we Jay out a
research strategy based on what we can "contextua)jzed comparisons" demonstrate the
unique contribution it can make to comparative Jabor research. By pushing the core categories
of institutional analysis, contextuaJized comparisons show how common international
pressures are refracted into divergent struggles over particular national practices. Yet by also
drawing on the insights of the political constructionist approach, we show how despite
obvious differences in the "fault lines", or the particular national locus of conflict, there are
nonetheless substantive similarities across these diverse cases that neither approach alone
could have captured.
The remainder of this paper is divided into three sections. The first section compares
the theoretical assumptions underlying both approaches and assesses their relative strengths
and weaknesses. The following section lays out the logic of "contextualized comparisons,"
and shows how this approach builds on the insights of the other two schools. The final
section of the essay applies this alternative research strategy, comparing key developments in
Sweden, Italy, and the United States. Struggles over solidaristic wage policies, the
mobile (a cost of living adjustment escalator), and work reorganization are analyzed
in the three countries in order to show bow these otherwise different struggles
nonetheless express substantially similar dilemmas fOJ' the labor movements in the three
countries considered. The paper concludes by pondering the significance of this alternative
approach for future comparative labor research and union strategy.
Two Alternative Approaches to the Study of Labor
Institutionalism and political constructionism represent two prominent approaches to
the study of labor in advanced capitalism. The institutional approach to the study of labor .
fits into a b.roader literature in political science that emphasizes the role of historically
evolved institutional arrangements in shaping political outcomes.:3 Institutions are important
to labor outcomes because they shape the goals that labor and capital pursue, and structure
their strategic interactions. Thus, labor scholars in this traditio!) emphasize the
institutional context of labor politics, including the organizational characteristics of unions
and business, the leg3:1 framework of industrial relations, and links to the state."
Institutionalists most often focus on persistent differences in labor outcomes across countries,
showing how nationally distinctive institutional configurations mediate the effects of common
. international pressures very differently.
Within the labor scholarship, as in the institutionalist literature m ( j r ~ generally, there
are important variations on the institutionalist argument. For some authors institutions simply
define the strategic context by establishing particular opportunities and constraints, bestowiDg
organizational resources, and structuring sttategic interactionss. Others are more explicit in
problematizing the question of preference formation, illusttating how institutions affect the
way in which actors understand their interests, shape how problems are conceived (and even
what is conceived as a problem), and define the range of solutions consideret1. An example
of the former is Ellen Immergut's work on health policy. In her model, political actors
"fonnulate their goals, ideas, and desires independently from the institutions. The institutions
become relevant only in strategic calculations about the best way to advance a given interest
within a particular system" .
An illusttation of the alternative, more expansive, view of the
impact of institutions can be found in Peter Hall's work: on policy paradigms. For Hall,
institutions "contribute to the very terms in which the interests of critical political actors are
An alternative perspective is represented in the work of a number of scholars whose
work emphasizes the political construction of the identities and sttategies of economic actors
and the "embeddedness" of institutional arrangements. Within this second approach, there is
also considerable variety, and here too, the labor literature draws on a broader intellectual
tradition, represented in the work, among others, of Roberto Unger, Joan Scott, William
Sewell, Horst Kern, and Jonathan Zeitlin'. In contemporary U.S. labor scholarship, this
perspective owes a particular intellectual debt to Michael Piore and Charles Sabel but is
represented as well in the work of Gary Herrigel, Victoria Hattam, Gerald Berk, and Richard
In contrast to the institutionalists, scholars working out of this alternative paradigm
tend to emphasize political processes and the discursive nature of social relations rather than
formal structures. Accounts emanating from this second school focus on the identities,
"worldviews", and "cognitiVf, maps" of the actors rather than simply their "interests." Since
identities are forged out of social experience and political these analyses emphasize
historical contingency, strategic choice, culture, and the plasticity of institutional
arrangements in explaining labor outcomes. Political constructionists draw attention to the
way that the social, political, and cultural context affects the way that the formal institutions
operate. Victoria Hattam's work on the role of the courts in regulating American unions, for
example, illustrates how the capacities of the very same institutions can vary considerably
depending upon the social and cultural context within which they are embedded. II This is
one reason why political constructionists, in contrast to institutionalists, concentrate less on
cross-national differences and more on persistent regional and local variation in labor
outcomes within the same national settings.
At one level, differences between these two perspectives might be seen as
primarily a matter of emphasis, with institutionalists focussing more on cross-national
comparisons and the institutional context of politics, and political constructionists emphasizing
regional differences and the political context of institutions. On closer inspection, however,
it is clear that the differences in emphasis are systematic and are driven by alternative views
about the role and stability of institutions, the coherence of national systems, and the nature
of political-economic development.
Institutional Fixity ys. Malleability
Institutionalism in all its guises emphasizes the·ways in which institutional arrangements
shape political behavior. The institutions are of course themselves political creations:
constructed, renegotiated, and transformee. through political conflict. However, once
established, institutions affect political outcomes by defining the strategic options available to
political actors and by mediating political conflict among them. A good example of this
approach is Lowell Turner's Democracy at Work, which uncovers substantial differences in
the ability of American and <J.erman unions to participate in industrial restructuring and traces
these back to differences in the way labor's rights at the plant level were institutionalized.
In contrast, political constructionists have a more fluid conception of institutions and a
quite different understanding of the role institutions play in determining political behavior. .
For this second group of scholars, organized actors like labor do not simply respond to the
incentives or disincentives of particular institutional arrangements, but instead are collectively
engaged in the definition and redefinition of the institutions themselves. In a sense, this
perspective reverses the causal arrow. Economic actors are by alternative
conceptions of social justice and identity and they struggle with one another over these
competing "worldviews", Institutions do not shape struggles as much as they are
shaped by them, Institutional arrangements are, in fact, the legacy of past struggles among
the social actors.
In this view outcomes are inherently open-ended, especially during '"critical junctures"
or moments of transition. A good example of this kind of argument is Charles Sabel's lYQrk
, which traces how workplace conflicts in Europe in, the late 19608 and early
1970s facilitated the formation of unlikely coalitions of workers which succeeded in
transforming the institutional context of labor relations in several national contexts.
According to Sabel, these workplace struggles were motivated as much (if not more) by
considerations of group dignity and justice than calculations of economic self-interest or
rational responses to institutional incentives.
The De&ree of Coherence of National Systems
lnstitutionalist£ often situate their accounts of labor politics within broader analyses of
the key institutional arrangements of different national systems. Moving beyond mere
descriptions of the organizational attributes of labor and capital, these accounts seek to
illustrate how the institutional landscape as a whole - including the legal framework,
financial system, and methods of training of different countries - contribute to the observed
patterns of labor politics. This approach t;hus often depicts the different' pieces of a political
economy as fitting together as a more or less coherent national system
• This explains why
this literature tends to focus heavily on cross-national comparisons that highlight the effects of
different national institutional arrangements on labor outcomes. Such comparisons, in turn,
have become the basis for midrange theorizing and more general propositions about the
institutional foundations of relative labor success and failure in the face of particular
international pressures. 14
In contrast, political constructionists view national models as "complex and contingent
historical constructions whose unity and coherence ...vary across time and space" .IS In other
words, national political economies are not coherent systems but rather incoherent composites
of diverse sub-national patterns which co-exist (often uneasily) within the same national
territory.16 Because they view national institutions as functioning quite differently in different
social and political contexts, political constructionists have difficulty discerning distinct
national models or even modal patterns of labor politics across countries. This explains why
many of these analyses emphasize the wide array of different political and economic patterns
observed either over time or across space (at the local or regional level) within the same
Alternative Views of Political Deve1Qpment
Finally, and in line with the premises sketched out above, historical institutionalists
tend to view political development as a "path dependent" process. At CJjtical junctures in a
country's political-economic development, a wide range of options may be possible but, as
Krasner puts it, once a path is taken this "canalizes future developments. "17 Institutions are
the organizational legacy of past struggles between labor and management that constrain
future strategies. The idea is that historical divergences.in the political-institutional
development of different nations will produce systematic differences in political outcomes,
and that "critical junctures" are important in sending countries down different institutional
trajectories that have enduring consequences for labor outcomes.
The model of political development implicit in the work of political constructionists is
quite different in that it emphasizes instead "suppressed historical alternatives. "18 Like
historical institutionalists, political constructionists pay special attention to critical "turning
points" in a country's history, but they do so for very different r e a s o n s ~ The historical
institutionalist is interested primarily in explaining the winning coalition and the politics that
produced the dominant institutional patterns in different countries. In contrast, political
constructionists pay far greater attention to the "failed alternatives. II These are important
precisely because the triumph of the dominant model is only ever partial. The "aefeated"
alternatives in fact live on, and they continue to be relevant not just as anachronistic
curiosities, but because they constitute real alternatives that have the capacity to influence
contemporary outcomes. l'
. Both of these approaches dispute teleological arguments which posit universal
convergence on "most efficient" organizational forms.lO In fact both do so by invoking the
familiar "branching tree" metaphor. But the similarity is partly superficial, because scholars
from the two schools tend to use the same metaphor in the service of quite different
arguments.. For institutionalists, the different branches result from the "canalization" process
mentioned above. That is, the point of the metaphor is to emphasize how cross-national
differences in institutional arrangements reflect but also reinforce divergent political-economic
trajectories. For political constructionists, by contrast, the branches represent the variety of
political forms that persist within countries (despite common institutional arrangements).
Some branches may be more dominant than others at certain times, but a shift in environment
may alter established growth patterns. Changes in the availability of light could lead stropger
branches to wither, weaker ones to thrive, and even entirely new branches to sprout. The
. point of the metaphor from this perspective is not to show how difficult it is to move from
one brancb to another. On the contrary: the brancbes represent the possibility for temporarily
"suppressed alternative" social and political arrangements to live on.
In the end, then, both institutionalists and political constructionists have offered strong
refutation of convergence theories, though based on somewhat different premises.
Institutionalists have emphasized the stickiness of national institutions, and showed how they
continue to mediate the effects of common international pressures in ways that sustain
nationally distinctive patterns. Political constructionists subscribe to an even more radical
anti-convergence theory, for they focus on differences in longstanding historical traditions not
just across but also within countries, and they also posit that these traditions would continue
to mediate political outcomes even if the institutions themselves were to converge.
Toward a More Synthetic AJIproacb
Both these persepctives have yielded insightful analyses of the historical development
of labor movements and of contemporary trends and outcomes. In particular, historical
institutional analyses have given us persuasive accounts of policy continuities within countries
over time and persistent cross-national differences. Political constructionists, for their part,
have directly confronted regional and historical variations and discontinuities, tracing these to
significant differences in the underlying political and social dynamics that affect bow formal
At the same time, eacb approach bas. its own characteristic weaknesses. First, the
institutional approach bas been criticized for tendencies toward a kind of structural
determinism, creating the impression that political outcomes can simply be "read off' the
national institutional arrangements.
The focus on dominant national institutional
arrangements obscures regional and sectoral variation, and .blends out phenomena that do not
appear to fit conventional characterizations of dominant national pattenis. Such phenomena
are coded as "local variation" or sometimes simply as deviations from the dominant national
theme. Second, focusing as it does on the effects of "sticky" institutional arrangements,
historical institutionalism often produces rather static accounts of political phenomena that
obscure change within countries over time. Both of these criticisms are in fact related to the
practice in much of the historical-institutional literature of abstracting crucial elements of
specific cases or clusters of cases and using ideal-typical constructions derived in this way as
the basis for cross-national comparisons (e.g., Zysman's "market led" versus "state led"
systems; Soskice's "coordinated" versus "non-coordinated" market systems; but also - more
narrowly - the "Swedish model"). While such abstractions facilitate midrange cross-national
research and theorizing, they often impose an artificial coberence on individual countries
across time and space.
The characteristic weaknesses of political constructionist accounts are the mirror
of those of the institutionalist approach. If the latter overemphasizes structural constraints,
the former exaggerates contingency. Historical studies that resuscitate lost "alternative
pathways" have been as unconvincing in establishing that these "suppressed"
alternatives were truly viable in the first place and, especially, in demonstrating that they
continue to be relevant to contemporary political outcome? Wbere institutionalists tend to
obscure regional and local variation, political constructionists sometimes overemphasize local
differences and draw broad conclusions from peripheral or isolated cases. Finally, and most
generally, the work of political constructionists is sometimes perceived as atheoretical or even
dismissed as storytelling. The emphasis on the inherent open-endedness of political outcomes
has produced extremely interesting accounts of the interaction of political and institutional
forces in particular cases. However,. attempts at broader cross-national theorizing frequently.
slip back into the stylized accounts set forth by the institutionalists. ~
In our view, the best work in labor scholarship has always drawn insights, if only
implicitly, from both schools. Although our own work, individually, flows from the two
different traditions, we are convinced that labor scholarship can be enriched by a more
systematic attempt to understand the connections between the two. A more synthetic
perspective is desirable for theoretical reasons, especially to forge a midd1e ground between
the determinism of the more structural approach (which often implies that outcomes can be
deduced from the institutions) and the excessive fluidity of political constructionism (which
often implies that virtually everything is possible at any given moment).
A more synthetic view is also cal1ed for on empirical grounds. Tbe institutional
approach as a whole was constructed around artifacts abstracted from various cases (e.g,
"corporatism" or even the "Swedish model"). These were brilliant artifacts, but the empirical
reality, as pointed out above, is that previously stable systems of labor relations are currently
undergoing tremendous strain and change.
Under these circumst;ances, the problem of
static analytic categories becomes quite severe, as the real existing systems from which we
were abstracting undergo transformation. Related to this, the emphasis in historical
institutionalism on cross-national variation often obSCl,U'es the considerable subnational variety
and experimentation currently under way within all national industrial relations systems. As
the present appears to be a moment of rather significant institutional innovation and change,
the possibility for cross-fertilization between the two approaches seems"great, with 'elements
of a political constructionist approach constimting a necessary complement to the instimtional
It is beyond the scope of this essay to propose a full synthesis. Instead, we will lay
out a framework to facilitate a more fruitful conversation between the two perspectives. The
framework we propose builds on common ground between the two approaches, in particular
their mutual skepticism regarding cross-national convergence, but it also draws selectively on
the particular insights each has to offer. The approach we layout below revolves around
"contexmalized comparisons" which can provide a basis for understanding both cross-national
and subnational variation in industrial adjustment and labor politics. From the instimtionalists
we take the idea that differences in national instimtional arrangements will refract common
international forces very differently, and show how conflicts between labor and capital over
decentralization and flexibility have come to focus on different substantive issues in different
national contexts. However, drawing on the insights of political constructionism, we then
point out unexpected parallels across a of apparently very dissimilar cases by showing
how these different struggles all touch on core questions regarding the future shape and role
of unions within their political economies.
Contextualized Comparisons as an Altemative Framework
Common challenges (e.g., changing conditions of international competition, massive
industrial change, pressures for a decentralization of bargaining and increased wflexibility")·
confront labor movements in all advanced industrial states. But these common pressures
manifest themselves very differently across nations due to differences in institutional "starting
points" (e.g., the degree to which bargaining arrangements were centralized or decentralized
to begin with or to what extent existing work practices were already "flexible") and to the
way different institutional arrangements refract common pressures into divergent struggles
over specific practices.
For example, although countries as diverse as Sweden, the United States, and
Germany have all experienced pressures to decentralize bargaining arrangements,
decentralization means very different things in these three national contexts. In Sweden,
decentralization refers to the breakdown of national (solidaristic) wage deals; in Germany, to
the revision 'of multi-industry bargaining arrangements; and in the United States to. a
breakdown of industry-wide contracts. Even after the recent wave of decentralization,
bargaining arrangements in Sweden and Germany are still more coordinated than they ever
were in the United States. Our point here is that while it is in some ~ accurate to speak
of a widespread trend toward decentralization, it is not particularly useful to leave the
analysis at that. If we want to understand the significance particular changes have for labor,
we must attend to the very different "starting points" in different countries.
We must also pay attention to the way different institutional arrangements filter
common pressures and translate them into specific domestic struggles. The "search for
flexibility"lS in fact refers to a bundle of alternative arrangements involving work
organization, working hours, compensation schemes, and overall employment levels. While
these changes are more or less the same cross-nationally, their valence is quite varied in the
different national contexts. That is, because employers encounter different rigidities in
different countries some challenges will be more problematic than others in terms of labor
politics. For example, employer efforts to reorganize work on the shop floor are strongly
resisted by unions in the United States since they undermine narrow job definitions with their
related wage, seniority, and security provisions - practices tbat represent the institutional
anchors for labor's rights within the firm. In Germany, however, where employment
security and union strength are not dependent upon shop floor practices like job control,
workers and their unions welcome changes to upgrade their skills and enhance their
autonomy. Conversely, American employers have traditionally enjoyed substantial flexibilty
in wages and employment compared to many European countries, but the drive for
employment flexibility -in Germany and for wage flexibility in Sweden have produced major
new conflicts between labor and capital since the late 19708.
In this way, an institutional perspective can help us identify differences in the
particular "fault lines" that open up in different countries exposed to common international
forces. These different fault lines point out what the relevant institutional "sticking point" or
locus of conflict between labor and capital will be in a particular country. Applying an
institutional analysis in this way pushes beyond the conventional practice of comparing
apparently similar changes (e.g., the reorganization of work on the shop.floor) across
countries and attributing varying degrees of labor success primarily to different national
institutional Such studies the impression that they are comparing
"apples with apples". However, given the different starting points and varying degrees of
valence different issues possess in different national" industrial relations systems, they are in
. fact comparing substantially different phenomena. While illuminating certain features of
national institutions and their impact on political outcomes, these studies at the same time
systematically obscure how these institutions actually translate common' pressures into very
different issues and struggles.
Putting the differences rather than the similarities at the center of the analysis not only
brings into relief the substantive nature of specific labor conflicts; it also highlights the very
different meaninl or ~ of different struggles in various contexts, and this is where a
political constructionist perspective comes in. To return to the previous examples, for a
political constructionist the significance of the restructuring of work rules and job
classifications in the United States goes beyond the renegotiation of labor's institutional rights
within the firm. These arrangements codified a set of customs and informal practices that
defined the moral order of shopfloor relations in American companies and the unions' role in
that order. As a result, their renegotiation opens up much larger issues concerning union
identity and the place Qf organized labor in the American political economr. Work
reorganization in Germany, by contrast, has no such significant Symbolic value or "ethical
aura" for the unions. Similarly, wage flexibility does not possess the same meaning in
Germany or the United States that it does in Sweden, where unions have invested
considerable ideological and material resources into a policy of egalitarian wages, and where
such policies sustained a particular role for unions by legitimating a high degree of
organizational centralization within the union movement.
Beyond showing how the same issue can have very different meanings in different
contexts, a political constructionist perspective also helps us identify unexpected parallels
across'apparently dissimilar cases. As pointed out above, political constructionists view the
political economy of labor as more than just a collection of institutional arrangements, and
see unions as more than just administrators of the material interests of the working class.
While focussing on specific, concrete battles, a political constructionist sees these struggles as
a window on broader issues of union identities and the role of organized labor in the political
economy. Adopting this theoretical lens reveals unexpected parallels between, say, the crisis
of job control unionism in th! United States and the breakdown of solidaristic wage
bargaining in Sweden. Despite the obvious differences, both conflicts open up broader issues
and have set in motion a redefinition of the role of these two union movements in their
respective political economies.
In sum, we too recognize the common forces at work across various countries (e.g.,
the crisis of Keynesianism, more volatile international markets, the drive for "flexibility") but
we argue that in order to understand cross-national differences in outcomes, we need to focus
on the different ways these common forces present themselves in ~ f f e r e n t national, industrial
and regional contexts. Putting the differences rather than the similarities at the center of the
analysis brings into relief the substantive nature of specific labor conflicts and allows us to
see how unions in various countries are engaged in struggles that while different in .
appearence, are nonetheless similar in substance.
"Contextualizing" comparative analysis thus means more than being careful about our
choice of categories or phenomena to compare; it pushes us to make radically different kinds
of comparisons. Because differences in institutional configurations refract common pressures
into distinct domestic struggles with varying degrees of significance, perhaps it would be
more fruitful to analyze the key domestic conflicts manifest across different national contexts.
Once we have identified the key conflicts and their significance within different national
contexts, the next step would be to compare these experiences across countries. At first, it
might appear as if we are comparing. "apples with oranges" since the specific struggles we
analyze are manifestly quite distinct. However, closer examination reveals how these
apparently different struggles express parallel dilemmas for the labor movements in the
various national settings. Because. such "cootextuaJized comparisons" tap into very different
processes, they can add an important new dimension that more conventional "structured" or
"matched" comparisons across institutionally or functionally equivalent issues cannot detect.
The following section illustrates the contribution this alternative framework can make
to the comparative study of l a ~ . In it, we examine union responses to contemporary trends
in three countries - Sweden, Italy, and the United States - but in each case attending to the
way that common international pressures are mediated in distinctive ways depending on the
institutional and political points of departure.
Industrial Restructuring and Industrial Relations: A Tale of Three Countries
In recent years, the new terms of international competition and technological
innovation have radically altered markets and the organization of production. The
simultaneous globalization and segmentation of national markets has rendered traditional
business practices in all advanced industrial nations less effective.. Technological innovations
have not oruy shortened product life cycles but also created opportunities for firms to
compete along a variety of hew dimensions.2J
The 'break-up of national markets has spurred individual firms and even entire
industries to experiment with a variety of alternative business strategies that test and/or
transcend traditional industrial relations. Everywhere, employers are searching for ways to
enhance their "flexibility" and ability to adjust to ever more turbulent markets. But
"flexibility" can be achieved in a variety of ways and along several different fronts
1. Changes in the organization of work due to new technologies and more
decentralized forms of production. Linked to this are shifts in work rules,
working hours and changing patterns of employee participation within the firm.
2. New compensation schemes affecting the level, structure, and forms of
compensation of both blue and white collar workers.
3: Shifting patterns of skill formation, training, and career trajectories which
match the new needs of firms.
4. Issues of job mobility and employment security which shape the way individual
firms and industries adjust their workforces both to more flexible production
schedules and to cyclical and structural declines in product demand.
Unpacking the concept of "flexibiUty" reveals that national industrial relations systems
differ along several of these dimensions as a result of different starting points and institutional
legacies. This means that common international pressures for decentralization and flexibility
set in motion fundamentally different struggles in different countries, depending on the
particular rigidities characteristic of different systems. But it also means that different
struggles across countries may in fact touch on cOmmon problems and processes.
The following section sketches out the key conflicts of the 19808 and 1990s in
Sweden, Italy, and the United States. An institutional perspective can lead us to the particular
"fault line" that has opened up in each country and show why divergent struggles over
particular practices emerged notwithstanding the common pressures facing all three countries.
Then, applying the insights of the political constructionist approacb, we illustrate how these
apparently divergent events express substantially similar dilemmas for the three respective
labor movements considered. The three key events we will consider are: the end of
centralized solidaristic wage bargaining in Sweden, the renegotiation of the scala mobile in
lta1y, and work reorganization in the United States.
The Breakdown of Centralized B;u:pinine in Sweden
In the literature on labor in advanced capitalism, Sweden bas long served 3$ a model
of labor strength. A central feature of what has been referred to as "the Swedish model" was
the high1y centralized system of bargaining and the labor movement's policy of solidaristic
wages which resulted in a substantial narrowing of wage differentials across. the national
workforce over the last several decades. Centralized solidaristic wage bargaining was
originally institutionalized in the 1950s, based on a cross-class coalition between employers in
industries exposed to international competition (interested in overall wage restraint) and
unions in low pay sectors (interested in pay levelling)30. . In its original conception,
solidaristic wage policy was meant to level wages within occupations across sectors. For
employers this held out the promise not only of overall wage restraint, but also of eliminating
competition among themselves for particular categories of (skilled) workers. Unions, for
their part, embraced the idea of equal.pay for equal work, regardless of a firm's profitability
or position in the market.
/ .. .
In the 1980s, the system of centralized solidaristic bargaining came under extreme
strain, as employers withdrew support for the institutions of peak-level ' b a r g ~ g they
themselves had originally helped to construcf
• The revolt began in 1983 in the engineering
industry, when the employers organization (at that time VF, now renamed VI) withdrew from
central negotiations and succeeded in striking a separate deal at the industry level with the
Metalworkers' union, Metall. Since that time, the locus of bargaining has shifted several
times but employers are clearly intent on d.ecentralization.32 In 1990 the peak employers
association (SAF) dismantled its own bargaining unit, making a return to traditional peak
level bargaining impossible. Recent bargaining rounds have been conducted at the industry
level; but leading export firms such as ABB and Volvo and key employer associations favor
further decentralization of wage negotiations to the firm level".
Jonas Pontusson and Peter Swenson document the reasons why employers eventually
came to reject centralized solidaristic wage bargaining.'" A key part of the story lies in
developmeQts in bargaining in the late 19608 and early 1970s which institutionalized
inflationary pressures and thus contributed decisively to the system's breakdown. First, wage
leveling within the private sector came to be extended to the lower productivity public. sector,
fuelling rather than dampening inflation. Second, as mentioned above, early solidaristic wage
policy focused only on intersectoral wage disparities and did not touch differentials between
skilled and unskilled workers. However, new clauses in central contracts in the late 19608
introduced interoccupational leveling. Employers had traditionally been able to use plant
level wage drift to compete for scarce skilled workers, but new wage leveling clauses began
to compensate less skilled workers for skilled workers' preyious year's wage drift. A g ~ the
net effect was an overall, institutionalized, ratcheting up of wages.
By withdrawing from centralized bargaining, the engineering employers helped sever
the link between private and public sector bargaining. In 1983, they also eliminated
contractual provisions for interoccupational wage leveling and revamped plant wage structures
to accommodate greater differentials among blue-collar workers". Engineering employers
took the lead in 1983, but by the late 19808 the decentralizers had taken control of the peak
employers association itself. The SAF's withdrawal from key corporatist boards and,
especially, the dismantling of its own bargaining unit, deprived the peak union confederation
(LO) of a national-level partner. All of this signalled the end of the traditional ·Swedish
From an institutional perspective, it is easy to see why the "drive for flexibility" took
the form that it did in Sweden. If we think through the four dimensions of flexibility
sketched out above, we can see that the Swedish system posed no major obstacles to (and
may have facilitated) work reorganintion along more flexible lines (point 1 above). 36 Skills
(point 3) and employment stability (point 4) were mainly a problem to the extent that
employers found it difficult to hold onto their skilled workers in the context of both tight
labor markets and constraints on wages imposed through centralized bargaining.
Rigidities in the structure of wages, however, JM)sed significant problems for both
labor and employers and ultimately set the stage for a cross-class re-alignment to. undermine
centralized bargaining'7. As mentioned above, solidaristic wage bargaining came to fuel
rather than dampen inflation. Wage rigidities posed a particular problem for export-oriented
firms in engineering both because these firms could not pass the costs on to consumers and
because of the problems created by competition for skilled workers amOng companies. Wage
rigidities also came to be a problem for unions trying to maintain solidarity despite significant
and growing differences in market conditions. Workers in engineering resisted the public
sector "pay parasites" who lived off the metalworkers' wage drift'. Meanwhile, at the plant
level, skilled blue-collar workers whose wages were held back by solidaristic wage bargaining
saw their position erode compared to white-collar workers in their own plants who performed
jobs very similar to their own but who were covered by separate contracts".
An institutional perspective can thus tell us why the "drive for flexibility" in Sweden
came to focus on centralized l;Jargaining and solidaristic wage policy. What the political
constructionist perspective can add to his, however, is to illuminate how this process of
institutional reconfiguration also involved a redefinition of the ideational premises of union
organiz3tion and strategies, by providing insights into the meaning of the breakdown of
centralized bargaining for the ideology and identity of the labor movement itself.
Peter Swenson has emphasized that the political economy of markets, states, and
employers within which labor movements maneuver is connected in important ways to what
he calls a ·moral economy". Against rational choice approaches, he contends that workers are
motivated not just by narrow material self-interest, but also by strong norms of fairness, the
violation of which inspires protest and collective resistance. Although union leaders are
constrained in some ways by workers' ideas of fairness, unions are not passive actors but
rather active agents in the moral economy. By harnessing and shaping workers' egalitarian
norms, unions can also shape and direct the collective power of wage earners. In Swenson's
words, "Unions are built in a world or morals as well as one of markets and politics, and
they help shape that
Viewed from this perspective; the "Swedish model" was defmed by more than just a
particular organizational configuration. What set the country apart from most other capitalist
societies is the unusually encompassing base of solidarity that unions were able to
institutionalize and maintain. Solidaristic wages played a key role in this process, for through
its wage policy the LO was able not only to secure centralized control over its constitUents
but also to harness and stretch the limits of workers' norms of fairness"l. In doing so, the
union "(set) the ideological terms of debate at an unusually egalitarian level"42.
But if the concept of solidarity helPed to anchor the social and political power of
Sweden's unions, its evolution a1so contributed to the strains that ultimately brought the
system down. As originally conceived, solidaristic wage bargaining was intended to equalize
wages across firms within the private sector only, on the principle of "equal pay for equal
work" regardless of a company's performance in the market. However, the aVailability of
"solidarity" and "egalitarianism" as legitimating principles opened the dOOr for other groups,
excluded from the original solidarity policy, to press new on the Union
leaders found it difficult to resist the claims of these groups (who yielded considerable power
within the organization) by imposing limits on solidarity. Thus, solidarity wages came to be
to a widening circle of groups in the 19608 and 19708, including public sector
workers and less skilled workers in both the public and private sectors.
The inclusion of these groups generated new tensions within the labor movement. As
mentioned above, private sector workers resented the ability of public sector workers to
"piggy back" on the wage drift that workers in manufacturing were able to win through
productivity increases. In addition, solidaristic wage policy increased teDsions between white
and blue collar workers, who in Sweden are organized into different confederations. The LO
was able to reduce the differentials among manual workers, but it could not directly regulate
differences between its own members and those in the white-collar confederation, TCQ44.
Tensions rose as technological changes and work reorganization in the 19808 blurred the
distinction between white and blue collar work, so that highly skilled blue collar workers
were sometimes performing tasks quite similar to that done by members of the white collar
union, but at a much lower rate of paYS.
Recent debates within the LO can be read as attempts to recast the concept pf
solidarity to deal with these tensions. The LO's new policy of solidaristic:wm:k for
solidaristic wages, for example, represents a clear retreat from general wage leveling and a
return to the emphasis on what they call "equal pay for equivalent w o r k ~ w ~ c h explicitly
accepts and even emphasizes the idea of bigher remuneration for jobs involving higher skills
Clearly, one of the goals is to reduce the wage gap between white and blue
collar workers by allowing for greater differentiation between skilled and less skilled blue
. collar jobs:"
The LO insists that the new policy does not represent a retreat from the principle of
solidarity, only its adaptation to changed circumstances and new problems: "The two main
principles of the wage policy of solidarity - equal pay for equivalent work and reduced wage
differentials -- are [ ...) as pertitent today as ever before .... However, the shift in the
emphasis and the meaning of solidarity is unmistakable.
/. . .:. (,
The scala mobile in Italy
Over the last two decades, the single most important and contentious in Italian
industrial relations has been the scala mobile. Introduced initially in the national contracts of
1945 and 1946, the scala mobile is a of living adustment escalator aimed at safeguarding
workers' real wages against inflation. Price increases are periodically calcuJated in relation to
an "average" working-class family's "shopping basket" of goods. An increase in the cost of
the basket translates automatically into a proportional rise in workers' wages.
In 1975, in an attempt to moderate labor conflict, control inflation, and recast Italian
industrial relations along more stable lines, Italy's leading business association, Coofindustria,
and the major union confederations (CGIL, ClSL, UIL) negotiated an accord which enhanced
the scala mobile's benefits, especially for lower-paid, semi-skilled workers. The main aspects.
of this accord were a 100% indexation
of the scala mobile and a secondary agreement
guaranteeing 80% of workers' wages in the event of lay-offs. Together, these
would industrial workers in Italy with significant wage guarantees against both high
inflation and radical restructuring. Confindustria hoped this accord would also shift the center
of gravity in bargaining to the national level, and in doing so also shift union power away
from the militant industrial unions to the more moderate peak-level confederations.
Initially, it appeared as if the accord would provide benefits for both sides. For the
unions, it not only pI"9teCted workers in their already established bastions (primarily large,
well-organized plants in the North) but also extended this bargain to workers in smaller, less
organized plants. Together with the inquadramentO uoico (unification of blue and white
. collar job classifications), the scala mobile agreement defined Italian union strategy for over a
J .. I ....
decade. Major Italian firms gained as well. Compensation for price increases would be paid
by large firms in any event (because of strong union presence within their plants), and the
agreement imposed the same terms on smaller, potential competitors. Moreover, by removing
disputes over price increases, this accord would eliminate a primary source of conflict within
large plants, therefore reducing the power of the factory councils as well!O.
But thert: was also an ideological component to the 1975 accord. For the unions, the
egalitarianism of the scala mobile accord, like the inqpadramento unico, resonated with the
goals and achievements of the "hot autumn" that had brought skilled and unskilled workers
together to seek radical change in labor politics'l. For Confindustria, the aim was to create a
privileged sector of industrial workers with job and wage security who would see the long
tenn benefits of moderation in terms of increased real wages and better working conditions
and who could also be enlisted in the private sector's fight against the inefficient and bloated
In short, Confindustria hoped to accomplish several things with this one sweeping
agreement. First, like its Swedish counterpart in the 19308, it hoped that ibis agreement
would simultaneously bring about the centralization and domestication of the Italian union
movement. By shifting the center of gravity of bargaining to the more moderate
confederations, and by taking price increases and job security out of the bargaining arena, it
hoped to restructure Italian industrial relations along more predictable and quiescent lines.
Second, this centralization of wages would also, in the long-run, enhance the competitiveness
of Italian exports by tying wages in the export-oriented industrial sector to moderate price
increases in the Italian economy as a whole". Finally, by enlisting the industrial working
class into a "producerS alliance" against the public sector, ConfindiSUja was sending a clear
signal to the Italian state that it was prepared to do battle if the government continued to
encroach on its terrain.
Yet this effort at controlling price increases and moderating labor relations through
indexation backfired in several ways. First, due to Italy's high inflation rates, the 1975
agreement over wage indexation gained massive weight in the determination of wages. By the
early 19808, it was estimated that the scala mobile accounted for over 60 percent of annual
wage increases. This oot only caused problems for management, which had to pay for these
increases, but also for the unions whose control over wage determination through collective
bargaining had been severely reduced by indexation. The government too wanted a reform of
this system since it confounded all policies aimed at reducing inflation.
Second, public sector workers immediately mobilized to protect their wages. Where
established unions failed to articulate these demands, new, organizations (Sindacati
Autonomi. COBAS) emerged to fill this representational void. As a result, not only was
indexation spread to all sectors of the economy, thus undermining the economic logic of the
accord, but also industrial conflict increased dramaticaUy, but this time in the public and
Finally, because of the particular formula used in calculating wage increases, and
given that indexation during the high inflation years of the 1970s accounted for over half of
all wage gains, wage differentials based on different skill levels were significantly reduced.
As a result, the unions founds themselves criticized and in some cases simply abandoned, by
and their unions operated. According to Piore :
Customs tend to grow up around existing practice. The practice
. may initially be dictated by economic considerations; or it may
be imported into the work place from the larger community
from which the labor force is drawn. But once it has been
regularly repeated in a stable employment situation, people
develop an independent attachment to it. In the eyes of the
work groups it aquires an ethical aura. Adherence to it tends to
be viewed as a matter .Of right and wrong and violations are seen
as unfair and immoral71.
Thus, for example, seniority rights within American firms are important not just as the
institutionalized rules for American unions in their dealings with management. They are also
important because, over time, seniority has acquired a legitimacy - i.e., it has come to be
seen as a fai!: way of dividing up jobs and deciding the order of layoffs. In this sense, union
defense of seniority principles is tied up in the defense of the particular "moral order" that
developed within the American context, a moral order from which the unions themselves
derived their own authority and legitimacy.
Thus American unionists struggle against work reorganization not simply because it
sweeps away traditional shop floor p r a c t i c ~ bot also because it challenges their long-standing
traditions and customs. Work reorganization violates workers' sense of justice and at the
same time re-opens older questions concerning industrial democracy and the narrow place
American unions occupy in the broader political economy. Ifjustice is no longer governed
through narrow grievance procedures and seniority rights, then perhaps American unions, like
their European counterparts, must look outside the workplace to redress these issues. And if
American unions begin to ponder this
shift in strategy, then their basic identity as "business"
unions will necessarily be called into question.
movement. Returning again to the four dimensions of flexibility outlined above, we can see
that the American system always' allowed for considerable flexibility in' wages, especially
compared with most European countries, since it allowed for local concessions (or in the
good old days, wage drift), and even permitted employers to opt out of the unionized sector
altogether. Seen in comparative perspective, the breakdown of patterned bargaining only
extended the already high degree .of wage flexibility that American employers always
enjoyed. In terms of employment practices, the flexibility of the U.S. system also stands out
in comparison with Europe, imposing very few constraints on frequent lay-offs and/or
aggressive hiring and firing practices to deal with fluctuations in demand.
However, work reorganization was bound·to become a key point of contention in the
United States because the traditional rights and roles of unions are inextricably linked to the
traditional organization of production. American unions' defense of certain "rigid" shop floor
practices - incomprehensible to observers and even unions in other countries - stems from .
• Thus, changes that Swedish or German unions embrace in the interests of
enriching jobs, upgrading skills,and humanizing work are more controversial in American
union circles because they involve a renegotiation of the traditional rights and roles of US
unions and threaten to Undermine their institutional sources of power. Relinquishing or
relaxing traditional job controls 'could open the door to managerial caprice and favoratism,
perhaps even to the circumvention of the union all toge.ther.
But the struggle against work reorganization by American unions is more than simply
an effort to protect their material interests. It also Stems from a concerted effort to defend a
set of informal "customs" and norms which governed the moral economy in which workers
with tremendous discretion in defining jobs, organizing work and laying-off workers dwing
down-turns of the business cycle. The narrow definition of jobs inherent to the system also
meshed well with management's adherence to the principles of Taylorism
and their desire
to insulate a whole set of larger issues (referred to as "managerial prerogatives") concerning
company production and investment decisions
• For the unions, this system produced
satisfactory results in that it helped sustain a production system that for much of the postwar
period generated steady employment and rising wages. Job control practices gave unions a
central role within the company, permitting them to "service" their membership and monitor
labor relations in an otherwise "low trust" shop floor environment. It was also congruent with
other key features of the American industrial relations system (detailed wage rules, connective
bargaining, and the "supremacy of national unionst'.
Since the 1970s, however, under growing pressure from international competitors,
American managers have increasingly sought to renegotiate work rules and
seniority provisions while reorganizing production along more "flexible" lines. In many
cases, this process has entailed plant-level concessions, where union locals have agreed to
relax traditional shop floor controls in exchange for job guarantees and/or new forms of
employee In other cases, however, this renegotiation of work rules has
provoked major industrial strife, internal union conflict'°, and encouraged employers to
pursue elaborate union-avoidance strategies.
Once again, an institutional perspective provides insights into both the question of why
the "search for flexibility" has focused on this particular issue in the United States, and also
why this particular struggle has been associated With a more general attack on the union
Work Reorganization in the United States
The U.S. labor movement is neither as strong nor as political as its counterparts in
Sweden and Italy. Nonetheless, a kind of postwar consensus prevailed within the United
States that accorded organized labor a recognized role in the political economy. This role was
quite limited : American "business unions" for the most part eschewed partisan politics and
embraced market capitalism in return for a role in governing shop floor relations through job
r.ontrol practices. In other words, unlike Swedish and Italian unions which sought to alter
societal relations through their political and industrial policies, American unions' vision of
industrial democracy translated into a rather restricted system of "customary law" that could
be administered through job rules, grievance procedures and seniority bumping rights'2. As a
result, when American firms in the 1970s and 1980s sought increased "flexibility" through
changes in work practices and job classification systems, they sometimes appeared to be
leading a more general.assault on unions ~ . @
. American industrial unions have traditionally sought to cOntrol shop floor relations
through a system of job control. 64 Jobs are narrowly defined and linked to a set of detailed
rules specifying "how much the employer must pay for each job or work task; a set of "job
security" provisions which determine how these jobs (and hence the wages attached to them)
are to be distributed among the workers; and a set of disciplinary standards which limit, in
the light of each workers' own particular work requirements, what obligations he or she bas
to the employer and how a failure to meet those obligations will be sanctioned.. .
During the hey-day of mass production, the job control focus of American unions
functioned well for both management and labor. For American managers, it provided them
began to struggle for a change in union policy. When this policy shift was not forthcoming,
many of these workers defected to rival organizations like the Sindacati A.tJtopomi and
COBAS whicb emphasized workers' differences in both their organizational rhetoric and their
bargaining platforms. Management as well attacked the centrality of the sgla mobile not only
because of its inflationary consequences but also because the highly centralized structure of
wage bargaining prevented them from developing individual and group pay ince-..ltives,
bonuses, and differentials to motivate and/or reward .their more valued employees.
But given the material and symbolic functions egalitarianism continued to play for
large groups of workers within the Italian union movement, the unions' leadership was caught
in a strategic dilemma. Sacrificing this policy orientation would not only anger many union
members, especially in the powerful indus1rial federations, but also eljminate perhaps the core
mission of the union movement itself. If Italian unions were no longer struggling for social
revolution, for egalitarian economic and social relations, then what was their purpose?
However, ~ y refusing to address the economic consequences of the pia mobile, the union
was casting itself in the role of "wi'ecker" of the Italian economy. After a decade of trying to
preserve the system by limiting the degree of indexation or freezing benefits for certain
categories of workers (retirees), the unions finally agreed to abandon the. system in 1992. Not
surpisingly, various groups within the unions, the so-called autOCQnyocati, emerged to contest
this shift in union p o ~ c y . Now these groups claim the language of egalitarianism as their
own, and use it to oppose the union leadership.
movement. This help us understand why the union movement so eagerly embraced the initial
accord, why it encouraged its diffusion to other sectors, and finally, why it refused for so
long to renegotiate the accord, notwithstanding its clearJy negative economic and
organizational consequences. In his recent book La Parobola Del Sindacato, Aris Accomero
describes the critical role ideas of egalitarianism have played within Italian union politics.
Stemming from the "hot autumn" struggles of the 1960s, ega.1itarian1sm became the
ideological glue of the union movement, bringing together skilled and unskilled workers, as
well as cementing an alliance among the three competing confederations (COIL, CISL, UIL).
For these reasons, egalitarianism was a key characteristic of most union policies throughout
this period : unification of blue and white collar job classification systems, the end. of
territorial wage differentials, massive promotions of entire categories of workers, and the
precise mechanism in which wage indexation was calculated. The leaders who emerged from
the hot autumn struggles hoped these policies would eliminate internal diyisions within the
labor movement and promote a "social revolution" in Italy"'. Almost all union documents
and certainly the major speeches by labor leaders throughout the 19708 are filled with
Yet as both Accomero and Baldissera documentl, the centrality of egalitarianism,
both in union policies and internal organizational discourse, began to be challenged in the
early 1980s by groups both within and outside of the labor movement. In part, because their
real wages were eroded during these years, in part, because they felt increasingly
marginalized in a union movement which exalted the "QPelllio massa" (unskilledJine worker),
technical, professional, and even skilled workers who had once supported egalitarian policies
An institutiona1 perspective also shoWs how the troubles provoke<I by the scala mobile
are related to various organizational features of the Italian union movement and institutional
arrangements of the Italian political Part of the 1975 a<;COrd's demise stems from
the inability of Italy's highly politicized but organizationa1ly weak and fragmented unions to
control their rank-and-file and hold up their end of the bargain. The unions' initial inability to
restrict the terms of the agreement to the industrial sector and their later (1983-1984)
incapacity to convince their more militant members of the need to modify the accord; clearly
played a role in undermining the economic rationale of the 1975 agreemenf'. Intecna1
divisions among the employers (public vs. private firms; oligopolistic vs. export-oriented
companies) also contributed to the confused and contradictory policies pursued by Italian
business interests in these
The situation was further exacerbated by broader institutiona1 featmes of the Italian
political economy. The country's weak and unstable governmental coalition, massive public
sector, govemment-controlled central bank, and polarized party system all contributed to the
eventual demise of the scala mobile Rather than quickly step in to correct the
inflationary logic of the sgla mobile, Italy's weak governments merely sought to assuage its .
consequences through currency devaluations and direct subsidies to business. Until the Bank
of Italy regained its autonomy in the early 19808, it too could do little to alter the situation.
In fact, it was legally required to underwrite the govermment's growing debt, which in turn
only contributed to the country's inflationary spiral".
A political constructionist account adds to this ana1ysis by focussing on the symbolic
value of the scala mobile and the interruiJ. dynamics surrounding the issue within the union
their more skilled members who felt under-protected and insufficiently appreciated by the
Far from providing mutual benefits for both organi
ed labor and big the
scala mobile accord instead generated a series of organizational and economic disasters for
both parties. It fueled rather than contained inflation and it further weakened the unions by
provoking dissent within their and 6efections to rival organizations, conflict with
previously friendly political parties, and renewed antagonism with big business. Perpetual
struggles over this accord characterized Italian industrial relations well into the 19908.
Moreover, disagreements over government-sponsored modifications of the scala mobile
precipitated the break-up of Federazione CGIL-CISL-UIL in 1984". Finally, in July,
1992, in the'face of growing economic difficulties, the scala mobile was abolished.
Again, an institutional perspective helps us understand why labor conflict centered
around this one particular issue. Although rigidities had also existed in employment practices .
(hiring and firing procedures, internal labor mobility) and working time arrangements, these
issues were more easily resolved through either government policy (e.g., the gs.sa
intemzione, a state-funded redundancy fund permitted firms to lay-off workers while
guaranteeing them most of their wages) or collective agreements unions and
management over flexible work· hoUfS'6, internal labor mobility, and more flexible hiring
• Thus, while unions were willing to a variety of ways in which
flexibility could be enhanced, and while they were willing to tinker with aspects of the
mobile, they nonetheless refused to reconsider its basic logic. As the unions' principle slogan
in these years made clear "La scala mobile non si tocca" (Don't touch the scala mobile).
/ .. )
In lieu of a Conclusion
Seen through the analytic lenses of most traditional approaches to the study of labor, a
comparison of wage policies in Sweden, cost of living adjustment mechanisms in Italy, and
work rules in the United States would appear to be comparing fundamentally different
phenomena (apples and oranges). From our more contextualized perspective, however, we
have tried to illustrate how three seemingly different, nationally specific coDructs are, in fact,
quite similar in that they each have provoked the union movements in the three respective
countries to reconsider their long-standing political, economic and organizational strategies.
In Sweden, the struggle over solidaristic wage policy has not simply pit unions against
peak employer associations but rather has called into question the basic position of. Swedish
unions within the political economy. The debates surrounding this policy have heightened
tensions both within the union movement (e.g., between white and blue collar unions and
among the industrial unions within the LO), and strained long-standing ties ~ e e n the
unions and the Social Democratic Party. As a result of the struggles over solidaristic wages,
the organizational and id$!Ological coherence of the labor movement was compromised, and
the unions' traditional economic, political, and organizational strategies were thrown into
. A similar process took place in Italy. Conflicts over the scala mobile led to open
confrontation with organized business, major set-backs in the political arena (e.g., the defeat
in the 1984 referendum) and organizational fragmentation within the union movement itself.
Through the scala mobile and a variety of other reform projects, the unions had sought to
translate the power they had gained during the hot autumn into long lasting social and
political change. Yet this attempt to recast Italian industrial relations failed, and as a result,
unions were left weak, and politically isolated. Renewed divisions an;aong the
confederations and growing challenges from rival organizations like the CQBAS signal the
growing weakness of the Italian unions.
In the United States an analogous process took place. There, managerial efforts to
rec,rganize production and change work rules undermined the unions' traditional source of
power and called into question their long-established.role on the shop floor. As a result, the
basic premises on which American business unionism were founded are being swept away,
provoking a reconsideration of labor's role within the broader American political economy.
. In short, contextua1i.zed comparisons allows us to unpack the particular struggles of
different national labor movements and bring to light the key strategic dilemmas they all
share. Future comparative labor research needs to focus on these common dilemmas in order
to better understand the key variables or factors underlying these surprisingly parallel
in labor movements with radically different histories, ideologies, and
organizational features. Contextua1ized comparisons may also shed some light on future union
strategy by more clearly outlining the future challenges and choices labor unions confront in
just about all advanced industtial nations.
1. For helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper, we would like to thank participants at
the Workshop on "The Shifting Boundaries of Labor Politics," Center for European Studies,
Harvard University, March 12-14, 1993; and at the COnference on "Production Regimes in an
Integrating Europe," Wissenschaftszentrum, Berlin, July 23-25, 1993, as well as Chris Allen,
Josh Cohen, Colin Crouch, Vicky Hattam, Gary Herrigel, Harry Katz, Steve Lewis, Chuck
Sabel, Ben Schneider, Peter Swenson, and Lowell Turner.
2. We recognize that there exist a variety of alternative approaches to the study of labor's current
difficulties. Some of these approaches locate their explanations in the unique circumstances of
jndividual countries (e.g., Marc Maurice, Francois Sellier, and Jean-Jacques Silvestre, lllc
Social Foundations of Industtial Power, (Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 1986); while others focus
on broader shifts in the international economy and their impact on the organization of production
and labor-management relatioDS (e.g., Michael Piore and Charles Sabel, The Second Industoal
Diyide, (New York: Basic Books, 1984; and Thomas Kochan, Hmy Katz, and Robert
McKersie, The Transformation of American Industrial Relations, (New York : Basic Books,
1986; Robert Boyer, ed., The Search for Labor Market Flexibility, (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1988»; and still others employ game theory to illustrate the strategic logic underlying union
behavior in a variety of national 'contexts (e.g., Peter Lange, Michael Wallerstein, and Miriam
Golden, "The End of Corporatism? Wage Setting in the" Nordic and Germanic Coontries," in
Work and Society: Golbal Pmpectiyes, Sanford Jacoby, ed., (New York: Oxford University
Press, forthcoming). '
" The two approaches we discuss, in fact, draw on the insights of these alternative modes
of analysis. For example; institutionalists, like structural Marxists, emphasize how the political
and economic strUctures of society constrainIshape the behavior of actors. Political
constructionists, on the other hand, resemble rational choice theorists, by emphasizing the
strategic choices of, and interactions among, the actors themselves.
3. See, for example, Suzanne Berger, ed., ftrDniWe Interests in Western Europe, (New yOrk
: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Peter Hall, Goyernine the Economy: The Politics of State
Intervention in Britain and France, (New York : Oxford University Press, 1986); Peter
Katzenstein, ,ed., Between Power and Plenty, (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press,
1978); David Soskice, "Reinterpreting Corporatism and Explaining Unemployment: C0
ordinated and Non-co-ordinated Market Economies, " in Renator Brunetta and Carlo Dell'Aringa,
eds., Labour Relations and Economic Performance, (London : Macmillan, 1990) : 170-211;
W\1lfgang Streeck, Social Institutions and Economic Performance: Studies of1ndustrial Relations
in Advanced Capitalist Economies, (London : Sage, 1992); and John Zysman, Goyernments,
Markets and Growth ; Financial SyStems and the Politics of Industrial Cban&e, (Ithaca, NY :
Cornell University Press, 1983).
· ./ ".,/ '.'
4. Wolfgang Streeck,Social Institutions and Economic Performance; Kathleen Thelen, .Union
of Parts : Labor Politics" in Postwar Germany, (Ithaca, NY : Cornell U:niversity Press, 1991);
and Lowell Turner, Democrac.y at Work ; Chan&ID& World Markets and the Future of I 'bot
Unions, (Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 1991).
5. See, for example, EUen Immergut, "The Rules of the Game: The Logic of Health Policy
Making in France, Switzerland,. and Sweden, " in Structurin& Politics : Historical Institutionalism
in Comparative Politics, Sven Steinmo, Kathleen Thelen and Frank Longstreth, eds., (New York
: Cambridge University Press, 1992) : 57-89; and David Sosckice, "Reinterpreting Corporatism
and ExPlaning : Co-ordinated and Non-co-ordinated Market Economies, " .
6. Good illustrations of this second, broader variant of institutionalism can be found in : Peter
Hall, "The Movement from KeyileSianism to Monetarism : Institutional Analaysis and British
Economic Policy in the 19708," in Steinmo, A...al, Structurin& Politics: 90-113; Sven Steinmo,
"Political Institutions and Tax Policy in the United States, Sweden, and Britain, .. World Politics,
41, no. 4 (July 1989); and Margaret Weir, "Ideas and the Politics of Bounded Innovation," in .
Steinmo, a.....al, Structurine Politics: 188-216.
7. Ellen Immergut, "The Rules of the Game" : 84-85.
8. Peter Hall, "The Movement from Keynesianism to Monetarism" : 91. Depending' on whether
preferences are seen as exogenous or endogenous, institutionalists can thus lean toward a rational
.choice perspective that "contextua1izes" rationality or toward a "social CODStnlctionist" view of
institutions. On the former, see Douglas C. North, Institutions. Institutional Chan". and
Economic Performance, (New York : Cambridge University Press, 1990); on the latter see,
Frank Dobbin, Fomin& Industrial Polic.y : The United States. Britain and France in the Railway
(New York : Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 1994).
9. Robert Unger, False Necessity. Anti-NecessitariaD Social Them:y in the Service of Radical
DeII1OC1'8CY, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988; Joan Wallach Scott, "On"Gender,
Language, and Working-Class History," in Gender and the Politics of Histo[y, (New York :
Columbia University Press, 1988); William H. Sewell, "Toward A Post-Materialist Rhetoric for
Labor History, " in Rethinkjn& l.ahor Histoor : Essays on Discourse and Class Analysis, Leonard .
R. BerJanstein, ed., (Champagne-Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993) : 15-38; Horst
Kern and Charles Sabel, "Trade Unions and Decentralized Production : A Sketch of Strategic
Problems in the" West German Labor Movement," Politics and Society, 19, D. 4 (1991) : 373
402; and Charles Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin, "Historical Altemtives to Mass Production :
Politics, Markets and Technology in Nineteenth-Century IndustrializatioD, " Past and Present, 108
(August 1985) . 133-174.
10. See Michael Piore and Charles Sab.cl, The Second Industrial Diyide; Gerald Berk,
Alternative Tracks: The Constitution of the American Industrial Order. 1865-1916, (Baltimore
: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); Victoria Hattam, Labor Visions and State Power: The
Ori&ins of Business Unionism in the United States, (Princeton : Princeton University Press,
1993); Gary B. Herrigel, ReconCWtualizin& the Sources ofGerman Industrial Power, (New York
: Cambridge University Press, 1994 forthcoming); and Richard M. Locke, Rebuildine the
Economy: Local Politics and Industrial Chane,e in ContempoflPl Italy, (Ithaca, NY : Cornell
University Press, 1994 forthcoming).
II. Victoria Hattam, Labor Unions and State Power.
12. Charles F. Sabel, Work and Politics; The Diyision of Labor in Indust[y, (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1982).
13. See David Soskice, "Reinterpreting Corporatism and Explaining Unemployment : C0
ordinated and Non-co-ordinated Market Economies" for a good example of this more systemic
14. the literature on corporatism in the 19708, for example, pointed to the importance of
centralized, unified labor movements in sustaining incomes policies in that period ..
15. Steven Tolliday and Jonathan Zeitlin, "National Models and International Variation in Labour
Management and Employee Organization, " in The Power to Manaee ? Employers and Industrial
Relations in Comparative=Historical Perspectiye, Steven Tolliday and Jonathan Zeitlin, eds.,
(London : Routledge, 1991) : 277.
16. This point was raised by Gary Herrigel in various discussions with the authors and is
elaborated in his own work. See Gary B. Henigel, Reconceptq1izjne the Sources of German
17. Stephen D. Krasner, "Approaches to the State : Alternative Conceptions and Historical
Dynamics," Comparative Politics, 16, (January 1984) : 240.
18. See Charles Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin, "Historical Alternatives to Mass Production"; and
James Fulcher, Labour Moyements. Employers, and the States: Conflict and Coo.pertation in
Britain and Sweden, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).
19. Piore and Sabel see craft-based production in advanced capitalist societies as an example of
this. Once seen as residual and anachronistic, they explain the survival of craft production in
countries such as Germany and Italy and illustrate its relevance for contemporary economic and
political outcomes. For more on this, see Second Industrial Diyide.
20. See Frank Dobbin, "Cultural Models of Organization: The Social Construction of Rational
Organizing Principles, " in Ememine Theoretical Perspectives in the SociolQay of Culture, Diana
Crane, ed., (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, forthcoming 1994) for an excellent general critique of
21. See Colleen A. Dunlavy, "Political StJuctnre, State Policy, and Industrial Change : Early
Railroad Policy in the United States and Prussia," in Steinmo, ~ , Structurine Politics: 114
22. David Landes, "Piccolo e bello. Ma e bello davvero?" in his AChe Servono I Padroni? Le
alternative storiche dell'industria1i7azione, (Turin : Bollati Boringhieri, 1987) : 162-178.
23. This appears to be the case for James Labour Movements. Employers and the State
: Conflict and Coo.pertaion in Britain and Sweden; and for Steven Tolliday and Jonathan Zeitlin,
"National Models and International· Variation in Labour Management and Employee
24. This point was raised in discussion with the authors by Lowell Turner.
25. Robert Boyer, ed., The Search for Labor Market Flexibility, (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
26. See, for example, Lowell Turner, Democracy at Work.
27. See Peter B. Doeringer and Michael· J. Piore, Internal Labor Markets and Manpower
Analysis, (Lexington, MA : D.C. Heath, 1971); and Michael J. Piore, "Fragments of a
'Sociological' Theory of Wages," The American Economic Review Proceedinis, Vol. LXIII,
n.2, May 1973 : 377-384.
28. For more on these developments, see Michael Piore and Charles Sabel, The Second
Industrial Divide; Horst Kern and Michael Schumann, Das Ende der Arbeitsteil1lD&?, (Munich
i C.H. Beck, 1984); and Wolfgang Streeck, "On the Institutional Conditions of Diversified
Quality Production," in Beyond Keynesianism : The Socio-Economics of Production and Full
Employment, Egan Matzner and Wolfgang Streeck; eds., (Brookfield, VT : Edward Elgar, 1991)
: chapter 2.
29. For more on the different forms of flexibility, see Richard Locke, Thomas Kochan and
Michael Piore, "Introduction" in Employment Futures in a ChanlWli World Economy, Richard
Locke, Thomas Kochan and Michael eds., (Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, forthcoming
1994); and Marino Regini, ed., La stioo della t1essibllita', (Milan : Franco Angeli, 1988).
30. Peter Swenson, Fair Shares; Unions, Pay, and Politics in Sweden and West Germany,
(Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 1989) ; chapter 2. .
31. For more on these developments, see James Fulcher, Labour Moyements, Employers. and
the State : Conflict and Coo.peration' in Britain and Sweden; and Peter Swenson, "Bringing
Capital Back In, or Social Democracy Reconsidered," World Politics, 43, n. 4 (July 1991).
32. For a chronology of events, see Andrew Martin, "Wage Bargaining and Swedish Politics ;
The Political Implications of the End of Negotiations, " Minda de Gunzberg Center for
European Studies Working Paper 1136, Harvard University, 1991; and Peter Lange, Michael
Wallerstein and Miriam Golden, "The F..nd of Corporatism? Wage Setting in the Nordic and
Germanic Countries," in Work and SocietY ; Global Perspectives.
33. European Industrial Relations Review, 234 (July 1993) : 15-16.
34. See Jonas Pontusson and Peter Swenson, "Markets, Production, Institutions, and Politics:
Why Swedish Employers Have Abandoned the Swedish MOdel," paper presented at the Eighth
International Conference of Europeanists, Chicago, a, March 27-29, 1992. See also Kathleen
Thelen, "West European Labor in Transition: Sweden and Germany Compared, " World Politics,
35. Andrew Martin, "Wage Bargaining and Swedish Politics: The Political Implications of the
End of Central Negotiations," : 36.
36. See Jonas Pontusson, "The Politics of New Technology and Job Redesign : A Comparison
of Volvo and British Leyland," Economic and Industrial 11 (1990).
37. Torben Iversen, "Power, Flexibility, and the Breakdown of Centralized Wage Bargaining:
The Case of Denmark and Sweden in Comparative Perspective, " paper presented at the Annual
Meeting of the American Political Science AsSociation, Chicago, IL, Septermber, t"992.
38. Peter Swenson, "Bringing capital Back In, or Social Democracy Reconsidered".
39. Andrew Martin, "Wage Bargaining and Swedish Politics: The Political Implications of the
End of Central Negotiations,"; and Rianne Mahon, "'Lonetagare' and 'Medarbetare' ? The
Swedish Unions Confront the "Double Shift," paper presented at the Workshop on "The
Changing Place of Labor in European Society : The End of Labor's Century?," Center for
European Studies, Harvard University, November 23-24, 1991) : 10-11.
40. Peter Swenson, Fair Shares : 11.
41. Ibid. : 14.
42. Ibid. : 68-69.
43. Jonas Pontusson and Peter Swenson, "Markets, Production, Institutions, and Politics: Why
Swedish Employers Have Abandoned the Swedish Model" .
44. Rianne Mahon, "'Lonetagare' and 'Med3rbetare' ? The Swedish Unions Confront the
"Double Shift'" : 10-11; and LO, "A Translation of Extracts from 'Work and Fulfilment' (sic)
: A Report to the 1991 LO Congress," (Stockholm: LO, 1991) : 99.
45. Scott Lash, "The End of Neo-Corporatism? The Breakdown of Centralized Bargaining in
Sweden," British Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 23, No.2 (July 1985) : 222.
46. See LO, "A Translation of Extracts," : 65. However, the union also stresses that all workers
should have the opportunities to "develop" in their work, that is, to move to more challenging
and thus better-paid jobs.
47. LO, "Wage Policy for the Future: Summary of a Report to the 1991 LO Congress,"
(Stockholm: LO, 1991) : 14, 18.
48. Ibid. : 4.
49. Indexation consisted in automatic wage increases related to changes in a union-controlled
. price index. Increases, however, were not based on a worker's existing wage'rate; instead all
workers received equal lump-sum increases (the so-called punto uniro eli contineeou). As Italy
two-digit inflation rates in the late 1970s-early 19808, these "egalitarian" adjustments
provided full protection of wages for workers in the lower job Classifications but eroded the real
wages of higher skilled workers. As a result, wage differentials based on skill were drastically
SO. For more on the scala mobile and Italian union strategy in these years,see Lange and
Maurizio Vannicelli, "Strategy Under Stress: The Italian Union and the Italian Crisis
in Developmental Perspective," in Peter Lange, George Ross and Maurizio Vannicelli, Unions.
Chanf:.e and Crisis, (Boston : Allen and Unwin, 1982).
51. For more on the importance of egalitarianism in the Italian union movement, see Aris
Accornero, La Parabola Del Sindacato, (Bologna: n Mulino, 1992).
52. Robert J. Flanagan, David W. Soskice, aDd Lloyd Ulman, Unionism. Economic Stabilization
and Incomes Policies; European Experience, (Washington, DC : The Brookings Institution,
1983) : 543.
53. According to Flanagan, Soskice and Ulman :
The objective of Agnelli's [CEO of Fiat and then head of Confindustrlal exercise
appears to have been the transfer of resources to the industrial sector and away
from the public sector, which would be accomplished under conditions of rapid
inflation as long as inflation was offset by depreciation of exchange rates and as
long as 100 percent indexation was confined to the industrial sector. While real
wages of industrial workers in reI8.tion to consumer prices were safeguarded,
consumer prices, reflecting smaller economywide wage increases, would fall in
relation to industrial prices, and the real cost on industrial labor, in relation to
industrial prices, would fall. (pp 543-544).
54. Lorenzo Bordogna, "The COBAS fragmentation of trade-union representation and conflict, "
in Italian Politics ; A Reyiew. Volume 3, Robert Leonardi and Piergiorgio Corbetta, eds.,
(London: Pinter Publishers, 1989) : 50-65,
55. For more on this, see Peter Lange, "The End of an Era: The Wage Indexation Referendum
of 1985," in Italian Politics: A Reyiew, Yolume 1, Robert Leonardi and Raffaela Y. Nanetti,
eds., (London: Frances Pinter, 1986) : 29-46.
56. Bruno Ravasio, "Ristrutturazione industriale e contrattazione degli orari nel settore tessile e
. abbigliamento, " paper presented at the Conference on "Flessibilita· Degli Orari, " Milan, April
57. Emilio Reyneri, "The Italian Labor Market : Between State Control and Social Regulation, ..
in State. Market. and Social RC£Ulation : New Perspectives on Italy, Peter Lange and Marino
Regini, eds., (New York : Cambridge University Press, 1989). '
58. For more on this, see Marino Regini, "The Conditions for Political Exchange: How
Concertation Emerged and Collapsed in Italy and Great Britain," in Order and Conflict in
Contemporary Capitalism, John H. Goldthorpe, ed., (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984); Stefano
Patriarca, "Caratteristiche e risultati della politica dei redditi 1983-1984; in II Teorema
Sindacale. Flessibilita' e competizione nelle relazioni industriali, Mimmo Carrieri and Paolo
Perulli, eds., (Bologna: D Mulino, 1985) : 55-98; and Miriam Golden, Labor Divided.
Austerity and Worldn& Class Politics in ContempotJlll' Italy, (Ithaca, NY : Cornell Universft:'
59. For more on the reform of Italian central banking, see Gerald Epstein and Juliet Schor, "The
divorce of the Banca d'Italia and the Italian Treasury : A case Study of Central Bank
Independence," in State. Market. and Social Re&J1lation : New perse:pectiyes on Italy; Peter
Lange and Marino Regini, eds.; and John B. Goodman, MonetaIy Soyerei&ntY : The Politics of
Central B a n k i n ~ in Western Europe, (Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 1992) : chapter 5.
60. Aris Accornero, "Sindacato e rivoluzione sociale. Il caso degli anni '70," Laboratorio
Politco, n. 4 (1981) : 5-34.
61. Aris Accornero, La Parabola Del Dindacato; and Alberto Baldissera, ..Alle origini della
palitica della disuguaglianza nell'Italia degli anni' 80 : 41 marcia dei quarantamila," Quaderni
di SocioIQ&ia, XXXI, n.l (1984).
62. ~ s system is descibed in Peter Doeringer and Michael Piore, Internal I.abor Markets and
Manpower Analysis; and Michael Piore, "Towards a 'Sociological' Theory of Wages" .
63. Michael Goldfield, The Decline Qf On:anized Labor in the United StAtes, (Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 1981); and Joel Rogers, "Divide and Conquer : Further
'Reflections on the Distinctive Character of American labor Laws'," :Wisconsin Law Review,
Vol. ,n. 1 (1990) : -1-147.
64. This section relies heavily on Michael J. Piore, "American Labor and the Industrial Crisis,"
Challenge, Vol. 25, No.1, (March-April 1982) : 5-11.
65. Ibid. : 8.
66. For more on this link, see Michael Piore and Charles Sabel, The Second Industrial Diyide;
and Harry Katz, Shifting Gears : Chan&ing Labor Relations in the U.S. Autom;>bile Industry,
(Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 1985).
67. Howell John Harris, ]'he Riglit tQ Manage. Industrial Relations Policies of American
Busienss in the 1940s, (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1982).
57. Emilio Reyneri, "The Italian Labor Market: Between State Control and Social Regulation, ..
in State, Market, and Social Re.plation : New perspectives on Italy, Peter Lange and Marino
Regini, eds., (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989). .
58. For more on this, see Marino Regini, "The Conditions for Political Exchange : How
Concertation Emerged and Collapsed in Italy and Great Britain," in Order and Conflict in
Contemporary Capitalism, John H. Goldthorpe, ed., (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984); Stefano
Patriarca, "Caratteristiche e risultati della politica dei redditi 1983-1984," in 11 Teorema
Sindacale. FIessibjlita' e competizione nelle relazioni industriali, Mimmo Carrieri and Paolo
Perulli, eds., (Bologna: II Mulino, 1985) : 55-98; and Miriam Golden, Labor Divided,
Austerity and Workin& Class politics in Contemporary Italy, (Ithaca, NY : Cornell UniVers":,
59. For more on the reform of Italian central banking, see Gerald Epstein and Juliet Schor, "The
divorce of the Danca d'Italia and the Italian Treasury : A Case Study of Central Bank
Independence," in State, Market, and Social Re,plation ; New Persepectiyes on Italy; Peter
Lange and Marino Regini, eds.; and John B. Goodman, Monetary ; The Politics of
Central Banlcin.: in Western Europe, (Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 1992) : chapter 5.
60, Aris Accornero, "Sindacato e rivoluzione sociale. II caso degli anni '70," Laboratorio
Politco, n. 4 (1981) : 5-34.
61. Aris Accomero, La Parabola Del pindacato; and Alberto Baldissera, "Alle origini della
politica della disuguaglianza nell'Italia degli anni' 80 : hl marcia dei quarantamila," Quaderni
di XXXI, n.l (1984).
62. system is descibed in Peter Doeringer and Michael Piore, Internal Labor Markets and
Manpower Analysis; and Michael Piore, "Towards a 'Sociological' Theory of Wages" .
63. Michael Goldfield, The Decline of Or2anized Labor in the United St8tes, (Chicago; The
University of Chicago Press, 1987); and loel Rogers, "Divide and Conquer : Further
'Reflections on the Distinctive Character of American labor Laws'," :Wisconsin Law Review,
Vol. ,n. 1 (1990) : '1-147.
64, This section relies heavily on Michael 1. Piore, "American Labor and the Industrial Crisis,"
Challena,e, Vol. 25. No.1, (March-April 1982) : 5-11.
65. Ibid. : 8.
66. For more on this link, see Michael Piore and Charles Sabel, The Second Industrial Divide;
and Harry Katz, Shifting Gears : Cbanl,ing Labor Relations in the U.S. AutoffiJbile Industry,
(Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 1985).
67. Howell lohn Harris, Ihe to Manage. Industrial Relations Policies of American
Busienss in the 19405, (Madison: The University of WiSconsin Press, 1982).
-"', - " ~
68. Harry -Katz, Shiftin& Gears.
69. Thomas Kochan, Harry Katz, and Roberty McKersie, The lraosfonnation of American
Industrial Relations; and Lowell Turner, Democrac.y at Work ; Chau&in& World Markets and the
Future of Labor Unions.
70. See Hany Katz, -Policy Debates over Work Reorganization in North American Unions,"
in New Iecbnolo&)' and Industrial Relations, Ricbard Hyman and Wolfgang Streeck, eds.,
(Oxford : Basil Blackwell, 1988) : 220-232.
71. For more on why this is the case, see Michael J. Piore, -American Labor and the Iridustrla1
Crisis". For an analysis of these practices in comparative perspective, see Harry C. Katz and
Charles F. Sabel, "Industrial Relations and Industrial Adjustment in the Car Industry, " Industrial
Relations, VoL 24 (Fall 1985).
72. Michael J. Piore, "Fragments of a • Sociological , Theory of Wages" : 376.
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